Dispatches from the road: Montreal

In Montreal today taking the old man to a Habs game. Drove up yesterday ahead of the storm that hammered most of southern NB.

Good to see that New Brunswick is doing a review of the province’s post-secondary education system.

“There has to be more than just a tweaking,” Graham said. “We recognize that for our universities and community colleges to succeed, there’s going to have to be some transformational changes brought forward to allow us to be competitive.”

I hope this review is set in the context of the overall economic and resultant demographic problems in New Brunswick. I reiterate that if we had Alberta’s ‘problems’ there would be no decline in the universe of possible students for NB universities and colleges.

Before the ink is dry on the document authorizing the post-secondary commission, University of New Brunswick president John McLaughlin is in the media demanding tens of millions more in government funding.

That is why we need an overall vision and plan that guides every spending decision of government. In my opinion, putting hundreds of millions more into the universities in New Brunswick over the next ten years will do very little to solve the economic crisis in the province. It will solve the UNB crisis and it will make post-secondary education cheaper and more accessible. I am sure that Ontario, Alberta and BC will welcome more funding for UNB as it will provide even more graduates for their jobs.

Once again, don’t get me wrong. Universities are key to the long term economic success of the province and need to be properly funded. But if you have scarce resources, you have to investment them as strategically as possible to achieve your long term vision. Our esteemed former Premier, for example, bragged long and hard about putting almost all new money into health care.

Fair enough. If that’s what the people want.

But, by definition, ‘return’ on investment requires an ‘investment’ to begin with. If you ‘invest’ in health care, you get a better health care system (which I think is important). If you ‘invest’ in UNB, you will get cheaper tuition, and a stronger fiscal situation for UNB. Fair enough. If you cut taxes as Lord/Volpe did you put a few bucks back into the pockets of New Brunswickers (I got about $100 bucks last year as a result of tax cuts).

But the issue is simple. Are these the best investments of the myriad out there if your objective is economic self sufficiency? If your objective is stopping out-migration, are these the best investments?

We have seven years of history to prove that marginal tax cuts and all new money in health care doesn’t lead to either self sufficiency or a reduction in out-migration.